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Dixon: education chief should resign, governor should appoint state superintendent

Republicans in Lansing directed their ire Tuesday at the state school chief’s defense of a training program that helps teachers working with LGBTQ students.

GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon held an event in front of the office building that houses the Michigan Department of Education, while down the street at the Capitol, the Republican-controlled Senate adopted a resolution chastising Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice.

“There are many good teachers who just want to help kids learn,” said Dixon, “and there are also many political activists who just want to use children as props in their progressive assault on parents’ rights and family values.”

Their primary gripe is Rice’s defense of training videos that suggest teachers should sometimes keep a student’s gender identity private from parents. That would be in instances where the student might face abuse, neglect, or homelessness.

But that’s not their job, said Dixon, who called on Rice to resign.

“We will ban school personnel from talking to young kids about sex and gender behind their parents’ backs,” she said.

Dixon also said she’d support an amendment to the Michigan Constitution to give the governor the authority to name the superintendent. Right now, that responsibility belongs to the Michigan State Board of Education, with members chosen in statewide elections.

Changing that would require a statewide vote to amend the state constitution.

A spokesman said Rice won’t be stepping down.

“Dr. Rice stays committed to working with parents and educators across the state to protect the health, well-being, and education of all Michigan students. He has no plans on stepping down as state superintendent,” said Martin Ackley of the Michigan Department of Education.

At roughly same time as Dixon’s remarks, Senate Republicans called a floor vote on a resolution to chastise Rice.

“This should alarm and concern every single parent in this state,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who sponsored the resolution.

“No parent is perfect but no Democrat bureaucrats should be advising teachers to withhold information on the well-being of their students from their own parents.”

But Democratic Senator Mallory McMorrow said the resolution only adds to the isolation felt by many LGBTQ students.

“This is targeting a group of kids who are already at higher risk for anxiety, suicide and depression by telling them over and over and over again that only the LGBTQ community, only these kids are the problem,” she said.

The Senate resolution is not binding and does not create any official state policy.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Rick Pluta | MPRN